Florida GOP governor taps the brakes on restoring voting rights for ex-cons

Amendment 4, approved last month by almost two-thirds of voters, would affect a majority of the state's felons who have completed their sentences.
Image: Republican Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis
Republican Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis speaks as President Donald Trump stands during a Make America Great Again Rally in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

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By Jane C. Timm

Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is slow walking the implementation of a voter-approved initiative to restore the voting rights of the majority of the state's felons who have completed their sentences.

The initiative, Amendment 4, was approved by 65 percent of Floridians last month and would restore the voting rights of an 1.5 million Floridians.

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Supporters said the measure, which drew national attention, should take effect on Jan. 8, but DeSantis told The Palm Beach Post in an interview that the initiative shouldn't be rolled out until "implementing language" is approved by the legislature and signed by him.

"They’re going to be able to do that in March," DeSantis told the Post, referring to the 60-day legislative session beginning on March 5. "There's no way you can go through this session without implementing it."

Some backers believe the amendment needs no additional language and should kick in next month, the paper said.

Republicans control the Florida state legislature and some in the party opposed the amendment, leaving voting rights advocates worried that a slow implementation of the amendment could keep former felons from easily registering to vote.

Florida's move comes as GOP legislatures are drawing fire nationwide for attempts to alter or nullify election results.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers sought to limit the powers of incoming Democratic governors. In Missouri, Republican lawmakers reportedly said they were considering revisions to voter-approved ethics measures.